Below are answers to some frequently asked questions. If you do not see your question here, feel free to contact us.
How do I become a school board candidate?
There are basic requirements for becoming a candidate. You must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen and both a resident of your school district and registered to vote in your school district for at least 30 days prior to the election. You can obtain an election packet from your county board of elections office that includes the necessary forms and petitions required to become a candidate. Necessary forms also are available on the Ohio secretary of state’s website. Note that the 2021 filing deadline is 4 p.m. on Aug. 4, which is 90 days prior to the general election.
When are school board elections?
The elections are held as part of the November general election in odd-numbered years. The 2021 election will be Nov. 2. The number of seats up for election are staggered. Since most Ohio school boards are composed of five members, either two or three seats will be available each election year. Larger districts may have seven members, in which case available seats alternate between three and four. Educational service centers (ESCs) have five-member boards, with two or three seats available each election. They also may increase their membership by adding appointed members.
How do I file?
To begin, you must file a form with the county board of elections that serves as both a declaration of candidacy and a nominating petition. This must be filed by 4 p.m. on Aug. 4, 2021; the filing fee is $30. Before you file, you must obtain valid signatures from registered voters residing in your district. The number of required signatures depends on the type and size of your district. Local and exempted village school districts require 25 signatures. The number of signatures required in city school districts is based on population: fewer than 20,000 requires 25 signatures; 20,000 to 49,999 requires 75 signatures; 50,000 to 99,999 requires 150 signatures; and more than 100,000 requires 300 signatures. Candidates for ESC boards need 50 signatures.
Petitions should be filed at the county board of elections office in the county where the school district is located. Petitions for ESC governing board positions must be filed at the board of elections office in the county where the ESC’s central administrative office is located. More information about obtaining signatures and board of elections nominating petition acceptance and signature validation is available in the Candidate First Steps webinar or in the OSBA publication "Candidate: A practical guide for running for school board."
How can I receive training?
The Ohio School Boards Association hosts regional candidate workshops designed to help candidates understand the responsibilities of school board governance, campaign and ethics laws and the fundamentals of running an effective campaign. In addition, candidates can access an online webinar and explore the many resources available at www.ohioschoolboards.org. As an official candidate, you have the same access to OSBA staff as our member boards via email or phone at (614) 540-4000 or (800) 589-OSBA for general questions. View staff contact information, or call the legal hotline, (855) 672-2529, for general legal information.
How much time is required?
School board work is a public service commitment. At times the commitment is significant, and the work will be both personally and publicly difficult. School boards are required by law to meet publicly at least every other month; however, most boards meet publicly at least once a month. Board members should be prepared to read a great deal to stay abreast of the many changes in educational philosophy, legislative actions and legal requirements of public school operation. For the individual that has a heart for public service, school board work is tremendously rewarding.
What do I need to know before I start campaigning?
After filing your petition, you will need to determine how to structure your campaign. If you intend to receive campaign contributions or make campaign expenditures, you will need to form a campaign committee, appoint a treasurer by filing a Designation of Treasurer form (form 30-D) with your county board of elections and set up a bank account for your campaign. Additional information about setting up and structuring your campaign is available in the Candidate First Steps webinar. The Designation of Treasurer form can be found at your county board of elections or on the secretary of state website.
Be sure you understand the local campaign laws for signs, digital and printed distribution of materials and funding. Find out if your district has a specific policy regarding the dissemination of campaign material in and around school grounds. It also is important to understand the requirements for disclaimers that must be printed on campaign signs and literature. Disclaimers also must appear on electronic communications. More information about disclaimer requirements and items exempt from them can be found in the Campaign Expenditures webinar or in OSBA's "Candidate: A practical guide for running for school board."
Practically speaking, it is a good idea to attend board meetings, set up meetings with the superintendent and treasurer to introduce yourself and learn more about the district and its operations. Read about school board work and talk to current or former board members to decide if being a board member is truly for you. It also is a good idea to familiarize yourself with your school district’s policy manual. The manual most likely is available on the district’s website. If you cannot find it, contact the school district main office for information on how to access it.
Compatibility of the office
There are some public positions school board members are prohibited from holding while serving on a board of education. Anyone who currently is a public official or employee and wants to serve on a board of education at the same time must ensure there are no restrictions that either bar or limit dual service. If you are a public official or employee, before you run a for school board seat you need to determine whether:
- there is a specific statute that prohibits you from serving as a school board member;
- the two positions you wish to hold are compatible;
- there are conflicts of interest that would limit your activities in either or both roles.
Whether a person can hold more than one public office at the same time depends on whether the positions are “compatible.” Compatibility of office rulings are made by the Ohio attorney general based on a judicially created seven-art test. The questions to consider are:
- Is either of the positions classified employment within the terms of Ohio Revised Code 124.57?
- Do the empowering statutes of either position limit the permissible outside employment?
- Is one office subordinate to or in any way a check upon the other?
- Is it physically impossible for one person to discharge the duties of both positions?
- Is there a conflict of interest between the two positions?
- Are there local charter provisions or ordinances that are controlling?
- Is there a federal, state or local department regulation applicable?
You can access the attorney general compatibility index on the Ohio attorney general's website. Questions about compatibility of public offices or positions should be discussed with the board of education’s legal counsel, legal counsel for the public agency the candidate already serves or the candidate’s private attorney.
Are there any conflicts of interest of which I should be aware?
Yes. All school board members must recognize that as parents, business people, property owners, community volunteers or citizens in their school districts, they may be faced with conflicts of interest while serving in their public positions. When conflicts occur, board members must know how to react so as not to jeopardize their reputation or the good name of the school district.
Conflict-of-interest restrictions can be found in Title 33 of the Ohio Revised Code and in Title 102, the Ohio Ethics Law, which is administered by the Ohio Ethics Commission.There also are two ethics-related restrictions in Ohio Revised Code 2921. A public official is presumed to know these laws as they apply to him or her. For this reason, ignorance of the provisions is not a defense to an ethics prosecution. Note: The statutes should be read together. Even though there may not be a conflict under one statute, there could be a conflict under another.
Most conflict-of-interest questions involve one of four scenarios:
- board member working for the district;
- family member working for the district;
- board member’s employer doing work in the district;
- compatibility of two public offices (see previous section).
What is a write-in candidate, and do I have to file to be a write-in candidate?
Citizens in the school district may file as write-in candidates for open seats on boards of education. This may be an appealing option for a citizen if, after the Aug. 4, 2021, candidate filing deadline has passed, the board of education has more open seats than potential candidates. A write-in candidate is someone whose name does not appear on the ballot, but whose name must be written on the ballot by voters. Only the names of those write-in candidates who have filed a valid declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate will be counted.
After the initial candidate filing deadline, any person wanting to be a write-in candidate must file a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate by 4 p.m. on Aug. 23, 2021. A write-in candidate must meet all of the qualifications of the office being sought. In order to run for the board of education, you must be at least 18 years old and both a resident in the school district and registered to vote in the district for 30 days before the election. You can find more information on OSBA's fact sheet, "Filing as a write-in candidate for a seat on a board of education."
More information about these potential conflicts of interest is included in OSBA’s “Candidate: A practical guide to running for school board.”